A Kashmiris day wouldnt be complete without a cup of piping hot nun Chai (Salty pink tea) and a crisp, freshly baked bread from the Kandur (the traditional baker).
While the entire Valley is still shrouded in darkness, the Kandur remains awake preparing his tandoor to bake breads for the morning breakfast. The Kandur forms an intrinsic part of the social life in Kashmir and every locality has their own local Kandur from which the people purchase their daily quota of breads.
In Kashmir, the Kandur shop isnt just a place where ones goes to buy the morning and evening breads, it is a social hub. A place where you get to hear and participate in discussions that range from gossip to political discourses to moral lectures. It is the place where all the local happenings are discussed. The discussions that take place in a Kandur shop or Kandur waan as it is called in Kashmiri are as varied and unique as the breads that are baked in the Kandurs oven.
For all the breads, aroma, smell, appearance, colour, size, and overall texture are characteristics optimized by the kandurs over many years that they have spent mastering this art. The texture and quality of these breads are determined by the percentage of wheat protein, temperature and type of flour present in the bread. Here are 14 different varieties of breads you must try when in Kashmir.
1. Tsot- Girda: Tsot or Girda is a medium sized round everyday bread that is a must on every breakfast table in Kashmir. It is golden on the upper side with fingertip indentations and white from below. Consumed along with a generous scoop of jam or butter, tsot is one of the many things that Kashmiris miss when not in Kashmir. Some of the bigger versions of Girda are served with ghee or sheep fat along with non-vegetarian dishes at ceremonies.
2. Lavasa: Lavasa is a puffy level bread made from maida. The flattened dough for this bread is baked in a hot tandoor to make it crispy yet soft. One can apply butter or jam to it before eating. Barbeques and traditional Kashmiri snacks like masale tchot are served wrapped in a lavassa which is soft.
3. Tsochwor: Tsochwor or Tilvor is a bagel shaped, slightly hard bread with a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top. The baker prepares tsochwor in the afternoon to be enjoyed with the late afternoon tea. A golden puffy bread, scattered with sesame seeds, tsochwor is perfectly complemented by pats of butter and makes for the perfect afternoon nibble.
4. Kulcha: These are crispy palm-sized mounds of flour sprinkled with poppy seeds. They come in two versions- mith (sweet) and namkeen (savoury). These crumbly breads make for a perfect dunk along with some traditional Dodh Kehwa (milk Kehwa).
5. Namkeen Kulcha: This savoury version is decorated by placing a peanut or an almond in the centre of the upper face of the Kulcha along with a generous sprinkling of poppy seeds. It is consumed on special occasions like weddings, Eid etc.
6. Khatai: Khatai is another type of kulcha which is sweet in taste. This type is also called as Kandi Kulche and has a cookie like consistency. It is bigger than a namkeen kulcha and tastes best when paired with a cup of kounge Kehwa (traditional saffron drink). Anantnag town is famous for this Kulcha variety.
7. Bakerkhaani: Bakerkhaani is a layered variety of bread that resembles filo pastry. The bread is prepared by stretching a sheet of dough repeatedly and rubbing each layer with a generous scoop of ghee before baking till crisp in a tandoor. It is the local custom to send trays full of large size bakerkhaanis to the in-laws after occasions like child birth or engagements alongside fried chicken platters. There is another type of Bakerkhani, in which halwa is rolled and served. It is called a paratha and is sold at Sufi shrines and distributed on Urs or at a religious community gathering.
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